I’m not sure if we’re all with Pete Fiutak yet…
Now the narrative shifts to Kirby Smart. Kirby, win the SEC East in 2017, or else.
There’s absolutely no excuse to not get into the SEC championship next year. There wasn’t really any excuse this season, either, and it was a missed opportunity. Next year, Florida still probably won’t have an offense, Tennessee will still be Tennessee – and will miss a slew of key players – and Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, while fine, are still Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
It’s not just Chubb returning. Key backup running back Sony Michel – a likely late-rounder – is returning, along with likely top 100 picks Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy for the defensive front. Safety Dominick Sanders hasn’t declared one way or another, but no matter what, the Bulldogs have around 19 starters returning, a franchise quarterback in Jacob Eason, and an NFL-caliber backfield to work with.
Yeah, there are road games at Notre Dame, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech, but there’s no Alabama, no LSU, and it’s a manageable enough schedule to roll through if the team full of experienced talents can develop. And that puts it all on Smart to combine the experience, along with the big-time young talents coming in, to win right away and at least get to Atlanta.
Should Georgia be a preseason top ten team on talent? After losing three of the five games by a total of five points, and with the defense coming off a great regular season, now the offense has to kick it all in.
Again, with all the talent coming back, there’s no excuse in Year Two – at least to take the East.
… but there’s little doubt our perception of the 2017 season changed dramatically after hearing the news yesterday that Chubb, Michel, Carter and Bellamy have elected to return to play for the school.
While the immediate emotional impact of their decision is centered primarily on Chubb, because of his epic effort to return from serious injury, this may in time be appreciated more.
One major reason Carter’s excited about returning is due to the returning players he’ll line up with. Georgia is now expected to return its entire starting front seven from this season, considering there were no contributing seniors on the defensive line or at inside linebacker.
The lone rotational player the Bulldogs lose at outside linebacker is Chuks Amaechi. [Emphasis added.]
Instant stability — a 180 degree change from what Smart walked into on his first day in Athens.
Yeah, there remains a chaotic situation to address on the offensive line, but consider what a coaching staff with a year under its collective belt, a defense that should be loaded with players who know what’s expected after a transitional season, a starting quarterback who’s no longer a true freshman, more depth and experience from his surrounding cast of skill position players and what should be a noticeable rise in the overall level of talent if what appears to be perhaps Georgia’s strongest recruiting class ever holds up through signing day will mean for expectations next season.
I’m sure we’ll hear from some inside and outside the program that such feelings are premature and need to be damped down in order not to place too much of a burden on Smart and the team (Process, baby!), but after signing day, it’s hard to see what team in the East will possess more talent than the one training in Athens.
Maybe it’s time to put the big boy pants on and embrace the opportunity for what it presents. That’s why they changed coaches. That’s why those four kids elected to stay.
UPDATE: This, too.